Drake prepped us to take back the crown with his well-anticipated album of the year. Fans and even apprehensive music snobs chomped at the bit for the release of his fifth studio album in January. He blue-ballsed us with Billboard 100 singles like “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What,” making us lose our minds over what this album could become. “Scorpion,” allegedly named after the superstar’s Scorpio zodiac sign, packs a whopping 25 songs into an hour and a half. Understandably so — he had a lot of beef and tea that he needed to get off his chest, addressing rumors of a potential child and clapping back at Pusha T’s diss track. The two sides of the album open our minds to the Jekyll-and-Hyde personas of Drake, showcasing his very transparent emotional neediness and his ultra-masculine cocky demeanor. However, for an album that is supposed to exemplify growth as a rapper, a father and a grown man, he can’t seem to escape the pretentious and slightly pitiful sound that we thought he left behind with “More Life.”
Side A pumps up his ego, spitting out simple, never-ending beats paired with an eletrofunk twist. Stunning samples from Mariah Carey’s “Emotions” (“Emotionless”) and Jay Z’s surprising feature in “Talk Up” overpower Drake and can leave him trying to one-up his own song. Despite Drake trying to win a dick-measuring contest with every lyric uttered, he doesn’t disappoint with his witty and fiery lyrics that leave other rappers with third-degree burns. In “Nonstop,” he acknowledges Pusha T’s diss track, “The Story of Adidon,” and claps back at Pusha T’s cover art of Drake in blackface: “Yeah, I am light skinned but I’m still a dark n****.” That’s not all; in “8 out of 10” he drops the mic by saying “Who grips the mic and likes to kill they friends,” criticizing Kanye’s songs “I Thought About Killing You” and “No Mistakes” from “Ye.” He goes back to his arrogant Hyde persona by impersonating a gangster archetype in “Mob Ties” and claims that “the (rap) crown is broken in pieces, but there’s more in my possession” in his opening song, “Survival.” However, we should remember what J. Cole said in “Fire Squad,” “Ain’t gonna be no more kings” and that we should “be wary of any man that claims (the crown) because deep down he clings onto the need for power, but reality, he’s a coward.”
Side B dives into his sappy, more R&B sound that he coined for himself. “Peak” offers a very refreshing starting point that makes one remember that it wouldn’t be a Drake album if he didn’t pine over numerous women like a teenager who got his promposal rejected. Famous lovers, such as Jorja Smith (“Jaded”), the Hadid Sisters (“Finnese”) and other flames mentioned in “Summer Games” echo the familiar sounds of rejection and heartbreak to a less somnambulic, more seductive beat. The most surprising song on Side B, “Don’t Matter to Me,” features unreleased Michael Jackson vocals which replicate a very The Weeknd-esque chorus and make it the best song on this half of the album.
Aside from anticipating the next Album of the Year from Drake, fans eagerly awaited to see if Drake would confirm the rumors of a child with Sophie Brussaux. The first time he acknowledges his child is four songs into the album with “Emotionless,” where he explains, in response to Pusha T’s diss about hiding his child, that “I wasn’t hiding my kid from the world, I was hiding the world from my kid.” The last song of the album, “March 14”, is the only time Drake develops a third persona that isn’t portrayed in 24 songs before: himself. He opens up about his fears as a parent and disappointment in not being able to provide the family unit he always wanted to give, allowing the album to feel honest even for just five minutes. Drake narrates a letter to his child, speaking to him in a way that can only convey his true feelings and clears the demons he had been facing.
This isn’t a question on whether Drake is a talented artist or if this is a groundbreaking album, but why this album is the way it is. Drake has, like most artists, evolved musically and is using his sound as PR for his brand name. He uses this album to clear the air around him and tell people, in the only way he can, the “truth,” or at least his side of it. Drake has become lost in the press to the point where he can’t hear his own words, and we are so wrapped up in his surface-level music that we can’t see what he’s trying to accomplish. He is lost, but it is comforting to see that even the No. 1 artist on Spotify can feel similar feelings of stress and loneliness. Is this a great album or even Album of the Year? No. Is he growing as an artist or showing us something we haven’t heard before? No. But that last song, “March 14,” is real, and that’s the sound that will make Drake’s music irreplaceable.
I give “Scorpion” 3 out of 5 stars.